Regulatory Barriers to Adequate Pain Care

"In the United States, many pain experts agree that physicians should prescribe opioids when necessary regardless of outside pressures as an exercise of their 'moral and ethical obligations to treat pain' (Payne et al., 2010, p. 11). For some time, observers have attributed U.S. patients’ difficulty in obtaining opioids to pressures on physicians from law enforcement and risk-averse state medical boards. Federal and state drug abuse prevention laws, regulations, and enforcement practices have been considered impediments to effective pain management since 1994, when the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (now the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality [AHRQ]) adopted clinical practice guidelines on cancer pain (Jacox et al., 1994a,b).
"Like AHRQ, the American Medical Directors Association (nursing home physicians) and American Geriatrics Society cite delays in access to prescribed opioids for nursing home patients, including those who are terminally ill, and the American Cancer Society has recognized the frequent inaccessibility of ­opioids necessary for treating some pain. The American Pain Society has developed evidence-based guidelines for controlling cancer pain, including the use of opioids when other treatments fail or when severe pain relief needs must be met immediately (Gordon et al., 2005). Fourteen years ago, the Institute of Medicine Committee on Care at the End of Life called for efforts to reduce regulatory barriers to pain relief at the end of life and termed some regulatory restrictions 'outdated and flawed' (IOM, 1997, p. 56)."


Institute of Medicine, "Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research" (Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences, 2011), p. 145.